U.K.: Worldwide Fruit wins M&S food supplier award
U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has awarded the Plan A Food Supplier of the Year award to Worldwide Fruit, for its multi-faceted approach to boosting production efficiency, reducing environmental impacts and improving staff well-being.
M&S' Plan A 'Doing the Right Thing' program started in 2007 with 100 commitments to achieve within five years, which has been extended to 180 goals to reach by 2015.
Worldwide Fruit CEO Robert Balicki tells www.freshfruitportal.com his company was likely been given the award for several initiatives in line with Plan A, as well as an attention to detail across the business.
"Being a sustainable business involves a push right down through our supply base. For example, we’ve looked at energy and reducing energy usage at our plant - we’ve put a voltage optimiser on our building, which has reduced our carbon footprint.
"We also have been taking out packaging out of the product and so M&S has less waste, and at the packhouse we don’t put waste into the landfill.
"It’s a journey and we’ve still got a long way to go."
He says reducing packaging and waste can be done in a way that fits with the requirements of the marketplace, while it also has made the company look more closely at its costs, allowing for better cost measurement and management decisions.
"For example we used to overwrap our apples in expanded polystyrene trays with four apples, but we found you can put them in flow wrap with less packaging, and the film is pre-printed so you can put a better message on it.
"It now has 80% of the packaging with a better-looking product, now with fully recyclable flow wrap."
He adds the next step towards a more sustainable business is constantly looking at ways to improve the supply chain at the level of growers and logistics.
"We can have a big impact on our suppliers, and we are constantly challenging all the perceptions people have.
"We get a lot of fruit from New Zealand in bulk bins, which saves on boxes, while we also want to reduce chemical usage - this not only means that the fruit is residue free but the supplier doesn’t have to spray so much and that saves cost."
In terms of employees, Balicki highlights the company has many Eastern Europeans working in its packhouse and has implemented programs to teach them English, while for staff in general there are extensive training programs.
Worldwide Fruit is owned 50-50 by the U.K.'s largest pome fruit grower group Fruition and New Zealand-based and German-owned Enza.
The company has offices in Spalding, Lincs and Whitstable, Kent.